Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators (PIAEE) Winners
Each year, EPA recognizes national winners of the Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators.
EPA Region 1
Gerard Reymore, Randolph Technical Career Center
Located in Randolph, Vermont, the Randolph Technical Career Center serves a rural and economically challenged student body, and many students possess learning disabilities. For the past 9 years, Gerard Reymore has developed innovative ways to connect students to the natural world, spark their curiosity, and build strong environmental literacy skills that empower the students to contribute meaningfully to their community, while also building their career opportunities. He incorporates agricultural and land management practices into their curriculum and often takes them into the field to learn about topics they are familiar with, including maple sugaring, logging and farming. He inspires students to learn about their environment, public health, and shared resources by using a combination of field-based experience, community partnerships, and community service, and he helps students build relationships with landowners, businesses and others in the Town of Randolph.
Gerard has established a strong network of local experts, business leaders and members of the community who help students learn through field experiences, and by giving back to the community. For example, after Tropical Storm Irene and Superstorm Sandy brought devastation to the area, Gerard empowered students to help others in the community during the storm recovery process by bringing in local scientists to teach students how to effectively participate in stream cleanup efforts, including bank stabilization, soil testing, and rehabilitation. In addition, students manage their own maple tree forest where sap is collected yearly and used to produce maple syrup that is donated to the community and used in school cafeterias. Gerard’s students also participate in many other empowering, skill-building, field-based activities, including measuring the age, height, and diameter of trees, and storing data in a geographic information system (GIS) in order to analyze trends in forest growth and correlate them to climate and soil conditions for the local area.
Melinda Learning, R. Stewart Esten Elementary School
Melinda Learning uses a hands-on learning approach to teach reading, writing, social studies, math, science and environmental education at R. Stewart Esten Elementary School. Two examples of Melinda’s approach to environmental education are her creation of the Esten Community Nature Trail and a wildlife habitat and garden within the school courtyard. Both allow students to explore the world around them, help them learn about the importance of natural resources and promote environmental awareness within the community. Melinda and her students have been maintaining and expanding the Esten Community Nature Trail since 1996 through activities such as investigating plant life, studying stream sites, building a boardwalk trail over a maple swamp, publishing several field guide books on the native wildlife they have discovered, and collecting bark rubbings for kindergarten classes. The wildlife habitat and garden includes a frog pond, a running stream, flower beds, garden plots, flowering trees and evergreens. With the help of Melinda and the local community, students were able to transform what had been a desolate area into a refuge for wildlife and a place where students learn about plant and animal life cycles.
Melinda’s efforts have engaged students in authentic investigative research and have provided them with opportunities to explore the outdoors in a natural environment. She also helps other classroom teachers prepare their students for investigations within the nature trail by providing resources such as tool kits, posters, books, and by suggesting activities to conduct in association with the nature trail investigation. Additionally, through grants, Melinda has been able to procure investigative tools such as binoculars, magnifying glasses, soil sampling tubes, compasses, stream study pails, water viewers and litmus paper. Melinda’s impact on her school is profound, and her ongoing efforts provide her students with opportunities to learn outdoors. Her commitment to environmental education includes continuous coordination to find funding and collaborate with local experts and community organizations.
EPA Region 2
Darelis Flores, The School of San Juan
San Juan, Puerto Rico
In addition to teaching elementary classes at the School of San Juan, Darelis Flores serves as the coordinator for the Eco School Environmental Program, which works to promote environmental awareness at the school and within the community. Among her many accomplishments is the establishment of a recycling center at the school, where members of the community, as well as the municipal public works, can deposit recyclable material. The recycling center is such a success that Darelis has been contacted by other communities seeking guidance on how to start a similar center. Under Darelis’ leadership, students help to ensure that all areas of the school are recycling. Six years ago, Darelis played a pivotal role in establishing a student-run school garden. Harvest goes back into the school and the community. Many students have been inspired to create their own gardens at home. Darelis also directs the Environmental Club Pekekes through which children in first through eighth grade carry the message of environmental stewardship to their peers, families, and community. Members attend workshops, conduct field visits to see environmental impacts first hand, and interact with other schools internationally to share green tips.
As the coordinator of her school’s environmental activities, Darelis assists other teachers in selecting a yearly environmental theme to integrate into the curriculum. Students then choose an innovative project, which in the past has included installation of a hydroponic garden powered by a solar panel. Darelis’ efforts in environmental education affect her students’ lives beyond the classroom. Her students obtain the knowledge they need to be informed, active citizens who can minimize the school’s environmental footprint and solve environmental issues in their community.
Nathaniel Wight, Bronx Design & Construction Academy
Bronx, New York
Bronx Design & Construction Academy is located in one of the poorest Congressional districts in the United States. As a founding teacher, Nathaniel Wight was pivotal in creating a learning environment where students make connections between sustainable technology and real-world environmental issues. Nathaniel coordinated the installation of a green roof at the school and now students in his Energy–Environment Research Club and in ecology classes use the green roof to learn about environmentally sustainable building practices, food production and urban ecosystems. Students collect temperature data through which they learn the concept of the Urban Heat Island Effect, an important environmental issue in cities. In addition, architectural and pre-engineering students survey the roof and use computer-aided programs to digitize data, plumbing students build rainwater harvesting and irrigation systems that conserve water, and carpentry students experiment with sustainable building designs. Nathaniel’s students also collect organic waste from the school and compost the material for the green roof’s garden to prepare it for yearly plantings they do collaboratively with elementary students and senior citizens.
Nathaniel’s students actively participate in sustainability events beyond the school and have been recognized locally, nationally, and internationally for their environmental stewardship. Nathaniel also serves as a mentor to his fellow teachers, where his dedication and passion for environmental education inspire others to learn and teach about environmental sustainability. His efforts have been so successful that plans to build an Energy Environment Research Center at the school are ongoing. The educational center will provide another opportunity for students and the community to learn about current environmental topics such as renewable energy systems.
EPA Region 3
David Andrews, Butler Junior High School
David Andrews teaches general science, environmental science and chemistry at Butler Junior High School in Butler, Pennsylvania, a suburban/rural area that serves a socially and economically diverse population. For 6 years, David has used the Trout in the Classroom (TIC) program to provide opportunities to students to raise Brook trout and release them into streams to help the local fish population. David’s work with TIC helps make habitat improvements to one of the local streams, perform fish population and water quality surveys, and learn how chemical, biological, and human-interaction factors affect the fish population. David also has organized student tree-plantings to help rebuild a riparian buffer, student participation in litter cleanups, and opportunities for students to work side by side with professional biologists.
David inspires his students to give back to the community by participating in local projects that not only improve the habitat of local waterways but also environmental conditions in general, e.g., coordinating paper recycling at the school to reduce the amount of garbage being sent to landfills. Through service-learning projects such as these, as well as challenging curriculum that focuses on local concerns like healthy ecosystems and the Marcellus Shale energy field, David’s students gain a greater awareness of environmental issues and an appreciation for natural resources.
In addition to being an educator, David serves on several committees and works to widen the horizons for his students and the community they live in. David is a member of the XTO Energy Community Advisory Panel, which communicates with natural gas companies and the community to learn about and discuss energy options. David’s efforts to perform community service by establishing partnerships with local government agencies, state management officials, and corporations have earned him the Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence.
Angela Whittaker, Cumberland County High School & Middle School
As a teacher for 17 years, Angela Whittaker has played a pivotal role in development of environmental education curriculum in Virginia and nationwide. For the last 7 years, Angela has been developing the Education for Sustainability Program, which fosters partnerships between the school, local businesses and the community. The program consists of hands-on courses in career and technical education (which have been adopted by the Virginia Department of Education), sustainable and renewable energy, and green building design. Angela also developed Learning from Nature, a class that is taught to middle school students, who learn about biological gardening, soil management, sustainable landscape design, and water conservation by working with community experts in outdoor gardens, a greenhouse, and research landscapes. Each student designs a project to educate others about the importance of healthy food and sustainable resource management. For example, students built a raised bed garden that supplies food to the school cafeteria, the cooking class, and the local food bank.
Angela developed courses for grades 9 through 12 that focus on green building design and renewable technologies. As part of these courses, students complete service projects; e.g., building compost bins to educate cafeteria staff on composting, designing a photovoltaic system to install on the school’s roof, teaching younger students about solar thermal energy, and designing a solar energy-powered irrigation system for the school’s garden. Angela has also provided her students with activities such as the nationwide Recycle Bowl contest. Students in her sustainability class trained the student body and faculty about recycling and developed a recycling program for the elementary school. Angela’s dedication to environmental education continues to inspire students to promote environmental sustainability in their school and their community.
EPA Region 4
Charlene Mauro, Navarre High School
Gulf Breeze, Florida
Charlene Mauro has been an environmental educator in Santa Rosa County for 15 years and has been instrumental in the development of a nationally recognized marine science program. As the founder of the Navarre Beach Marine Science Station, her enthusiasm for science and learning has inspired many of her students to pursue college degrees in science, technology, environment and education. Approximately 85 percent of them have received Bright Futures scholarships when they graduated.
After thousands of community services hours and hard-won grant funding were expended, in 2009 Charlene and her students opened the Navarre Beach Marine Science Station in a formerly unoccupied ranger station. Since it opened, the Navarre Beach Marine Science Station has hosted more than 5,000 students and members of the community with programs and curricula designed for 3-year-olds to adults. The station offers field activities, overnight programs, public open houses, summer camps, festivals and programs for special needs children, all of which focus on conservation and respecting the marine ecosystem. Curricula at the station incorporate Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Students learn how to keep laboratory journals, collect data and specimens, and collaborate with professionals on their research. Charlene’s efforts expose students to real-world experiences and environmental research careers, and challenge her students to be critical thinkers.
Students and visitors to the Navarre Beach Marine Science Station obtain an appreciation of the importance of the marine ecosystem and how they can make a difference. Charlene has earned several honors for her work, including National Marine Educator of the Year, Outstanding Florida High School Science Teacher, University of Florida Distinguished Educator, Navarre area Citizen of the Year, University of West Florida Outstanding Young Alumnus, and is a two-time winner of the EPA Gulf Guardian Award.
EPA Region 5
Paul Ritter, Pontiac Township High School
As a teacher at Pontiac Township High School for 17 years, Paul Ritter has developed an interdisciplinary curriculum that fosters collaboration among students and the community, challenges students to think critically about real-world environmental issues, and empowers students to conserve resources.
Paul’s Operation Endangered Species (OES) program develops students’ writing skills and promotes collaboration among students, professionals and government entities while educating the students on endangered species and how to take action to help preserve them. Paul’s International Prescription Pill and Drug Disposal (P2D2) program connects students, local pharmacies, police departments and municipal officials in order to educate the public on proper prescription and non-prescription drug disposal practices, drug misuse, and the harm that improperly discarded drugs do to the environment. The P2D2 program has been so successful it has grown nationwide with participation of students from across the country. The program has international reach as well; Paul’s students are currently helping youth in Brazil implement the program. Paul has organized several other projects that engage his students and community, including educating the public on the hazards of dumping pollution-causing materials into storm drains, educating students on proper recycling methods, and developing a plan to lower the energy consumption of the City of Pontiac.
Many of Paul’s programs have gained international recognition, including an invitation from the United Nations Environmental Programme to speak in Kenya at the 2013 Tunza International Youth Conference, where Paul and his students presented their OES and P2D2 Programs. Paul also has received state and national recognition for his commitment to environmental education. In addition to being the President of the Illinois Science Teachers Association, Paul was named the National Science Teachers Association’s Environmental Educator of the Year in 2011.
Michael Sustin, West Geauga High School
As an environmental science teacher for 23 years, Michael Sustin has been pivotal in development of environmental education in the West Geauga High School District. In 2004, Michael formed the first Envirothon team at the high school. To prepare students for the competition, Michael developed hands-on lessons in soil, aquatics and forest ecology, wildlife studies and environmental issues. Because of Michael’s success establishing an Envirothon team, the school administration asked Michael to develop an environmental science course. Michael created a program that incorporates laboratory and field experience, research projects and student collaboration with professionals, and teaches lessons about resource conservation, wildlife management and sustainability – and then obtained grant funding for the program. Activities have included planning and constructing a 12,000-square-foot rain and butterfly garden planted with native species, and constructing a ¾-mile trail for place-based ecosystem studies with a vernal pool that connects the high school and middle school gardens.
Michael has continued to develop environment-focused curriculum and has formed community partnerships with organizations including the Geauga Park District, Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Geauga Soil and Water Conservation District, and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Division of Wildlife. After students reported seeing a bear in a park, Michael developed the Bobcat and Black Bear Research Program. With the assistance of local government agencies, Michael’s students learn about land navigation; flora, fauna, track and scat identification; camera surveillance; and literature research.
Michael’s success has earned him several honors, including the 2008 Educator of the Year from the Geauga Soil and Water Conservation District, and recognition from the Cleveland Museum of Natural History in 2009, the Environmental Education Council of Ohio in 2010, the North American Association for Environmental Education in 2010, and as a National Geographic Grosvenor Teacher Fellow in 2012.
EPA Region 6
Laura Wilbanks, Whiteface Elementary School
For 25 years, Laura Wilbanks has developed innovative outdoor environmental education programs that challenge her students to solve real-world problems using science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Her instruction goes beyond the classroom and into their communities and the outdoors, where students gain hands-on, project-based, real-world experience and learn the importance of team building.
Laura’s innovative environmental education program Science Rocks U integrates environmental education concepts into all subjects offered at the school. Students studying history and social studies learn about regional geography, students in art class sketch in nature journals, and physical education classes take hikes and learn the importance of hydration.
Laura encourages her students to collaborate with environmental agencies, scientists and experts to develop solutions to environmental issues. Her students have made many significant achievements, including the discovery that a particular shortgrass prairie plant was capable of hyper-accumulating arsenic from soil and could be used for bioremediation in contaminated areas; another was the discovery that green tea was effective at blocking ultraviolet rays and could be used as a sunscreen ingredient. Both discoveries have real-world applications that were recognized in 2013 by geoscience experts, as well as by former First Lady, Laura Bush. Through a partnership with the Bosque Ecological Monitoring Program, Laura’s students also learn how to conduct environmental monitoring, including measuring water levels, evaluating invasive species encroachment and conducting surveys of the endangered Texas horned lizard.
Laura’s efforts to advance environmental education have been recognized by several organizations, including the Muleshoe National Wildlife Refuge, Ogallala Commons, and the National Science Teachers Association. Laura also was the recipient of the 2013 GREEN Award by the Texas Tech University International Center for Arid and Semi-arid Land Studies to acknowledge the arsenic project she conducted with her students.
EPA Region 7
Kristine Denton, King Science & Technology
For 10 years, Kristine Denton has taught environment-oriented classes at King Science & Technology, a grade 5 - 8 urban school with a high percentage of participants in the federal lunch program. Kristine encourages her students to improve the environment and to be active in the community. Inspired by a University of Nebraska seminar, she partnered with the non-profit organization Whispering Roots and empowered her students to build two aquaponic systems in her classroom. These self-sustaining systems use waste collected from fish to provide nutrients to a soilless growing bed. The systems introduce students to the benefit of sustainable farming methods. Students learn about crop rotation, water quality, photosynthesis and the nitrogen cycle, and are responsible for taking care of the fish, plants and lighting. Students log the daily test results to track data over time and identify trends. The produce harvested from the growing beds is donated to the local homeless shelter. Students lead tours and teach elementary students about how the system functions. Her students also maintain an urban farm of raised beds outside the school, then donate the harvest to local families.
Kristine engages her students by inviting community experts into the classroom. While Whispering Roots staff teach students how to maintain the aquaponic systems, environmental science students from the university teach the importance of water quality, and representatives from a local environmental consulting company promote recycling.
Kristine has been recognized for her efforts: the Center for Green Schools gave her the 2013 Trailblazing Teacher award, and the Omaha Reader Magazine named her one of Omaha’s Most Creative Educators. Currently, Kristine writes a science curriculum for the Omaha Public School System that includes lessons on global warming, recycling, animal conservation, renewable energy source, water and air quality.
Darrin Peters, Rockwood Summit High School
Darrin Peters developed an innovative curriculum that provides students at Rockwood Summit High School the opportunity to learn about renewable fuel. The project challenges students to conduct web research, design experiments, and produce usable biodiesel that passes ASTM International standards. The students test the fuel in a chassis dynamometer and five-gas emission analyzer at a local technical college. Tests using petroleum diesel and the student-produced biodiesel are conducted using the school’s two diesel vehicles, and students collect data to evaluate horsepower, torque and emissions. Students learn firsthand that vehicles that use biodiesel do not produce hydrocarbons, unlike those that use petroleum diesel. Results of their experiments are recorded in their scientific journals and discussed in the class. Students also present their findings to other schools in the area, businesses, and science centers. In addition, they serve their community by making the high school a waste vegetable oil collection point for residents and nearby businesses. Several businesses and organizations sponsor the program, and biodiesel that is produced by the students is used in two school biodiesel vehicles.
In addition to teaching students in his organic chemistry class to perform experiments to produce biodiesel, Darrin organized an after-school club for students who are not enrolled in the class. Participation in the after-school program has become popular and productive. As part of the program, students learn how to make hand soap from methanol that is recovered from waste glycerin that is produced from the biodiesel production process. The soap is bottled using containers and labels donated by a local sponsor and is sold to local businesses. Darrin’s approach to environmental education excites and involves students during and after school hours through innovative learning experiences.
EPA Region 8
Christopher Lambrecht, Summit High School
After a few years of teaching at Summit High School in Breckenridge, Colorado, Christopher Lambrecht developed an intellectually stimulating core biology curriculum that include community perspectives and partnerships, real-world investigations, and data collection. Christopher’s Stream Ecology course includes topics on riparian ecosystems and focuses on geological, hydrological, physical, and chemical stream characteristics; drainage basin characterization; stream movement; and aquatic community drift and migration. Students learn how to collect laboratory and field samples and participate in the Trout in the Classroom Program, which includes interaction with local professionals from the Division of Wildlife and the Division of Natural Resources. The course teaches students valuable lessons, including the implications of overfishing, point source pollution, and how human activities alter the ecosystem.
The Fire Ecology course Christopher developed incorporates various written material, subject matter on past fire events in the area, field-based instruction, and the expertise of local professionals. Key concepts covered in the course include the science of fire, fire weather, the history of the Forest Service, and fire mitigation and community planning. During the course, Christopher and his students work with local fire districts, local engineering firms, and the Summit County Information Systems. They develop maps using real community data and build fire behavior models under certain topographic and weather conditions.
Amber Stout, Jefferson Elementary School
Pierre, South Dakota
Amber Stout uses innovative outdoor teaching methods to engage her students in project-based learning about environmental protection and conservation. Students in her class, as well as parents and community members who are invited to participate in her outdoor class activities, experience nature firsthand. In addition, Amber encourages her students to share with their families the concepts they have learned at school. Amber organizes the creation of a butterfly garden every spring, where students learn about butterfly habitat and track butterfly species. Other projects she has implemented include building a worm farm, baking treats in solar ovens, and hatching trout eggs in the classroom. During the trout hatching project, students monitor water quality parameters such as temperature and pH, and they monitor fish growth for several months. The project culminates with a field trip to the Oahe Dam where the students release the trout, with the assistance of the local Game, Fish, and Parks staff, into the Missouri River. This project teaches students the importance of nature preservation and ecosystem balance.
Students in Amber’s classes also learn about the life cycle of birds, their habitat, and conservation and adaptation by incubating several species of bird eggs. During this hands-on project, her students monitor the temperature of the eggs, turn them, provide care after they hatch and then release the young birds into the wild. Students also visit a pheasant hatchery to help state officials band birds.
Amber is not only an inspiration to her students, but to her fellow teachers and the community as well. Through grants she has obtained, Amber has purchased science instruction materials that encourage nature-based learning and has offered them to teachers across the district.
EPA Region 9
Melanie Blas, Simon Sanchez High School
The majority of students qualify for lunch assistance at Simon Sanchez High School in Yigo, Guam. Melanie Blas has been educating students for 19 years about the importance of protecting the island’s natural resources, the ocean ecosystem, and the environment in general.
Melanie incorporates hands-on activities in her classes, such as field trips to Cocos Island to observe the Ko’Ko’ bird in the wild and to learn about how the invasive brown tree snake has been decimating the local bird population. Her students clean up beaches to protect the island’s reefs, and plant trees with the Guam Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Agriculture, and the Divisions of Aquatics and Wildlife Resources (DAWR) to prevent soil erosion. Melanie stresses the importance of sharing knowledge - her students educate the public about sustainability and the dangers of plastics in the ocean, and participate in a traveling puppet show and fair to educate younger students about watershed protection. Melanie empowers her students to write letters to leaders around the world and attend legislative hearings to interject information and passion about environmental sustainability, such as shark finning and its effects on the ocean ecosystem. She also helps her students realize that their actions and voice can have an effect on their island and beyond. Students maintain Facebook pages and design websites to share information on environmental issues.
Melanie frequently presents at conferences, including the Guam Department of Education Service Learning conference, the Service Learning Expo, and the National Partnership for Environmental Technology Education Indigenous Fellows Institute on Guam. She is organizing two conferences in partnership with the DAWR that will focus on invasive species and has been selected to serve on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s delegation to the Guam-Hawaii Learning Exchange.
Bret Sutterley, Walnut Elementary Education Center
Walnut Elementary Education Center is a magnet school located in Turlock, California, that serves an economically and ethnically diverse community. As an elementary school environmental educator for 35 years, Bret Sutterley has been instrumental in the growth of environmental education and stewardship at his school. Bret uses grant funding to create hands-on activities for his students. He organizes tree plantings, conducts recycled art projects, plans assemblies on endangered species, and helped set up the Go Green film festival. Bret also developed the school garden, where children learn how to raise healthy foods, and The Walnut Energy Center, which contains a solar array and a working wind turbine.
As part of Bret’s curriculum, elementary school children also raise salmon, learn their life cycle, and release baby salmon into the area’s rivers, thereby learning the importance of the local waterways and the organisms that depend on them. Bret provides a variety of opportunities for students to learn about local environmental concerns, including field trips to the Pacific Ocean, Yosemite and the central valley grasslands. In addition, Bret has established partnerships with experts in the environmental field, including professors at California State University, medical doctors, biologists, and city and state officials.
Bret has been widely recognized as a leader in environmental education: the 2014 City of Turlock’s Educator of the Year, Rotary Outstanding Teacher Awards in 2002 and 2008, a Who’s Who in Education Award in 2004, The Prudential Education Foundation Award, the MOSCE Credit Union Excellence in Teaching Award, and the Stanislaus Service Center Council Bell Award. Bret has been invited to speak at many conferences, including a NASA Teacher’s conference, the International Reading Association conference, the California Reading Association State conference, and the California Kindergarten Association State Conference.
EPA Region 10
Kathleen Ferguson, Okanogan High School
Kathleen Ferguson teaches Chemistry, Earth Science, Physical Science, Biology, Advanced Biology, Anatomy, and Ecology, to students in grades 7 - 12 at Okanogan High School in Okanogan, Washington. Kathleen has been a teacher for 29 years, and during those years has gotten her students involved in real world environmental studies that take advantage of the excitement and effectiveness of outdoor, experiential learning.
Kathleen’s students, including Native American, Hispanic and special education students, work with field scientists throughout the school year. For example, her Ecology students have been working with the Fisheries Division of the Colville Confederated Tribes to study the effects of interventions to rehabilitate a spawning channel on the Okanogan River. Biologists from the Conservation District teach the students about sustainable agricultural practices. Understanding that students enjoy being outside and that learning thrives when students are excited about what they are experiencing, Kathleen has her Advanced Biology students participate in the local, long term Oden Road Fire Study each year, researching water quality, soils, bird populations, and insect activity at the fire site. In addition, her Ecology and special needs students help the Conservation District with a native plant sale each spring, identify flora and fauna on Conservancy Island near the edge of the city, and create interpretive signage along a community walking/cross-country trail.
Throughout Kathleen’s teaching career, she has inspired and influenced other educators. As a National Board Certified teacher and trained mentor, she has coached K-12 teachers during their certification process and mentored student teachers who went on to successful careers in education. She has also worked with K-12 teachers to develop curriculum units in their school district, and has been a presenter at summer institutes in the Education Service District and at the Washington Science Teachers annual conference.
2014 PIAEE Honorable Mention Recipients:
EPA Region 1
Mary Marguerite Murphy, Camden Hills Regional High School
Margo Murphy has been involved in connecting students with their local environments throughout her 27 year career. In 2007 she moved to Camden Hills Regional High School where she teaches Global Science and Botany. In her five years at CHRHS, she has helped to guide a student led group, the Windplanners, to reach their goal on installing a 100 kw wind turbine on campus. This multi-year, multi-generation project required students to collect and analyze data, engage the community in discussions, understand permitting and engineering, fundraise and monitor results.The first year anniversary was just recognized. Windplanner efforts are now focused on significant energy efficiency efforts and additional renewable energy projects. The Windplanners received the Presidential Environmental Youth Award for 2013 and were also selected to represent student projects in the USA for the Volvo Adventure international student environmental projects competition in Goteborg, Sweden.
Margo has also helped students install a school orchard and garden that produces food for the school lunch program. This past year students grew over 800 pounds of organically raised produce. This year, the orchard will begin producing food, and the garden continues to expand providing students with opportunities to learn about soil science, permaculture, organic practices, and are introduced to foods they are familiar with.;
Margo is also very active on numerous local and state committees and has received many awards. She is a member of the Teacher Advisory Council (TAC) for the National Academy of Science and National Research Council. She currently serves on the state leadership team charged with the review and implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards. Margo is a nationally board certified teacher and has received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.
EPA Region 3
Mary Breslin, George Washington Middle School
Mary teaches 7th grade science at George Washington Middle School in Alexandria, Virginia, where she mentors her students through understanding how they can make a difference in their community. Mary does this with the support of multiple partnerships that bring her students unique learning experiences. Earth Force, the Winkler Botanical Preserve, Arcadia Farms, the Alexandria City Department of Planning and Zoning, and the GW Community Garden have supported her students through grant writing, project development and planting their school garden. The accomplishments of Mary's students range in scope, from helping to save a botanical preserve to developing long-term studies within the city.
Mary values the importance of teaching a younger generation how to create a more sustainable environment, and her personal and professional experiences help her inspire students to tackle environmental issues. After graduating from George Mason University as a Biology major, Mary embarked on a mission to re-establish and study natural habitats, first with AmeriCorps and the Florida State Parks, then with the Student Conservation Association in Great Smoky Moutain National Park. However, when the Virginia Department of Transportation moved to condemn her family home to build a portion of the Fairfax County Parkway, she was forced to become an environmental advocate. The four year journey of saving her father's house forever revolutionized her perspective on the state of our environment. She began working as a Sierra Club intern on Capitol Hill, which offered an eye-opening front row view to our country's decision making processes and allowed her to unravel the intricate web of environmental policy. Mary now draws upon these experiences to connect her students with real world issues and help them learn through community -based activities and youth driven civic engagement projects that integrate science, technology, math, engineering, and a variety of other academic and environmental concepts. Each year she teaches her students to become part of the solution.
Carolyn Ruos Thomas, Wildwood Middle School
Shenandoah Junction, West Virginia
Carolyn Ruos Thomas has been guiding her 7th and 8th grade students through diverse experiences of exploration and creative projects in science at Wildwood Middle School for the past 6 years. ;Carolyn “accidentally fell in love with brook trout” and ended up integrating Trout Unlimited’s Trout in the Classroom Program into her classroom in 2010. Carolyn has tried to create learning experiences which engage students in the classroom, the field and in the future. The brook trout, which are West Virginia’s state fish, have provided unlimited possibilities for her students to study biology, chemistry, physics and earth science as well as engineering, surveying, sustainability, geomorphology, art, literature, the art and practice of fly fishing, and even cooking. The stream and trout studies conducted by Carolyn and her students have been featured in TROUT magazine. Her work has been supported by an extensive group of community scientists and engineers who share their expertise and resources with her and the students at Wildwood Middle. The interaction of students with scientists and professionals in the community is invaluable as they learn about many careers and gain practical science and engineering skills through interactive learning experiences and projects. Carolyn has also done exceptional and inclusive work with special needs students who find regular classroom tasks difficult but have more positive responses to learning in the outdoors. She is also an advisor for the Wildwood Environment Club, which supports students who wish to learn more about the environment and make stronger connections with their local ecosystems and community engagement. The club has carried out successful projects such as a collaborative tree planting initiative for the school campus, and a current rain garden installation project. Carolyn has shown tremendous skill in connecting science and environmental education beyond the classroom and into the wider community.
EPA Region 4
Jeanna Goodson, Maiden High School
Maiden, North Carolina
As a National Board Certified AP Environmental Science and wildlife teacher at Maiden High School, Jeanna has provided students with meaningful outdoor and integrated learning experiences. She strives to connect her students with the natural world in a way that fosters an appreciation for the environment while also building a practical understanding of community initiatives and collaboration. Jeanna worked with local community members and groups to design and create a campus nature trail that enables her students to access different ecosystems for outdoor labs and activities in their studies. On the trail, students conduct science experiments such as water quality testing, and learn about local flora and fauna, population dynamics, air quality and pollution research. She utilizes a variety of creative and integrative education methods such as science simulations, interactive games, hands-on and team based activities and projects to help students to explore larger concepts and gain a better understanding of events and issues they may not otherwise experience. Her students learn the importance of connecting real world issues with their local community and environment which has direct ties to their daily lives.
Jeanna’s students share their learning experiences and enthusiasm for science, cultural and environmental issues with their families and community members through a variety of interactive projects that include creating and sharing an on-going environmental science A-Z booklet which includes images of labs they conduct, outdoor lessons, and written materials. Parents interact with students in this project through their written reflections about environmental science they collaboratively discuss with students. Jeanna also works with other teachers to encourage the integration of nature activities into other subjects and has participated in North Carolina’s rigorous Environmental Education Certification Program. Jeanna’s exceptional dedication to her students is apparent as she tries to help instill a sense of awareness and responsibility in her students as they learn to be mindful of how their actions can impact the world around them and how they can each make a difference as responsible stewards of the earth.
Mary Catherine Padgett, Ford Elementary School
For almost twenty years, Catherine Padgett has worked tirelessly to preserve, develop and sustain close to 30 acres of land into an extensive outdoor learning center for the 800 students at George R. Ford Elementary School in Acworth, Georgia. She included teachers, parents, scouts and community partners in the creation of Ford’s Children’s Garden, the construction of extensive outdoor learning labs, and the restoration of native habitat. The outdoor labs include pollinator habitats, a native tree arboretum, a Math Garden, aquatic habitats and a large community garden. There are also three wooded amphitheaters, an extensive nature trail and stream observation station, composting areas, and an Eco-Therapy natural playscape geared to accommodate special needs children. A teacher herself, Catherine organizes in-service training for teachers and non-formal educators, and guides community service workdays at Ford. In 1995 she initiated Evening in the Garden, an integrated curriculum celebration attended by over 500 guests, and encourages parental participation in the classroom by helping develop curriculum and best practices for the Earth Parent Program. Catherine’s achievements have been widely recognized on a local, state and national level and received Georgia’s Environmental Educator of the Year Award for 2010. Ford’s environmental education program serves as a model school for The Captain Planet Foundation, and received the National Green Ribbon School Award for 2013. Her commitment to environmental stewardship is well-respected and she shares her experience through state-wide seminars, and this year helped to organize and host the Learning Garden Conference at Ford. She also serves as Ford’s liaison to schools and outside organizations and this summer will be presenting Ford’s model program at the National Children and Youth Garden Conference.
EPA Region 5
Anne Wiszowaty, North Shore Community School
Anne Wiszowaty teaches second grade at North Shore Community School, a public charter school on forty acres in Duluth, Minnesota. Anne uses the environment as a teaching tool for all her subjects, from math to language arts to science to writing. She has spent a decade carefully developing curriculum that incorporates Minnesota-specific teaching standards with hands-on experiences on the forty acres of school grounds. Anne focuses on providing her students with educational learning opportunities that they can connect with. Her personal teaching philosophy is that learning is not limited to the four walls of a classroom. Students need to realize that learning can take place anywhere! Students grow food in the greenhouse, compost scraps in worm bins, create a rainforest in their classroom, and even compete in a winter dog sledding race. Students and parents are also engaged in learning outside the classroom, through visits to state parks, local nature centers and collaboration with a local recycling plant. Anne enjoys sharing her experiences of the benefits of hands-on, outdoor education through trainings, workshops, and mentoring opportunities as well. Anne is a member of the Minnesota Association for Environmental Education and played a key role in her school’s successful Green Ribbon School Award application.
EPA Region 7
Mike Todd, Ames High School
Mike Todd teaches environmental science, biology, and physics at Ames High School in Ames, Iowa. He is also a dedicated mentor for students in a variety of environmentally related and community based projects and clubs. He believes that it is of the utmost importance to get students involved inside and outside their school learning environment to engage with the wider community about local environmental and community topics and issues. He collaborates with scientists and professionals every year to help connect his students with real issues, scientific techniques and fields of study to create meaningful and community-based projects and learning experiences. Mike’s students have helped conduct research and collect data for state agencies and university professionals for local water quality issues, monitored fish populations, conducted vegetation surveys and collaboratively planned and managed an outreach event to share their findings and help to educate members of the community about local water quality issues and potential solutions. His students focus their studies around a central environmentally based theme each year to create a platform for making connections across a broad range of subjects and provide space for many community interactions and support activities with projects. Over the past few years, students have had the opportunity to participate in multi-year prairie reconstruction projects that help develop a deeper understanding of ecosystems, environmental science concepts and stewardship practices. Mike volunteers with many community groups and often integrates the projects of these groups, such as storm drain marking with the environmentally focused lessons to provide his students with practical experiences that have lasting impacts with their community. Mike strives to encourage his students to relate their projects to personal and career interests, network with professionals in those fields, and develop relevant skills and experiences that will be useful in the future, as they become informed citizens who make responsible choices.
Dominick S. DeRosa, F.L. Schlagle High School
Kansas City, Kansas
Dominick DeRosa teaches a variety of science based subjects for high school students at F.L. Schlagle High School in Kansas City, Kansas. Mr. DeRosa has structured his curriculum and teaching methods to include educational opportunities that directly connect and increase students’ awareness and understanding of environmental interrelationships with societal impacts, health and help to promote responsible environmental stewardship practices. A little over two years ago a small group of urban students, staff and parents joined with Mr. DeRosa to form an environmental team called Project Green. Project Green is a student led initiative, and includes participation from parents and staff, with Mr. DeRosa as a sponsor. From his Earth & Science classes, Project Green team set out to help reduce the school’s carbon footprint. The team has created a recycling program for the school and included ways to teach all members of the F.L. Schlagle community about how to reduce their carbon footprints. Project Green team also designed and created a student vegetable garden. The students work with their local community to learn about organic gardening tips and other gardening ideas community. Currently in its second year, the garden has doubled in size and type of produce and the students plan to sell their produce at a farmers’ market and to local businesses. Project Green is also currently working to build a greenhouse to enable students to continue gardening through the winter months. Over the last two years, the Project Green team has been invited to speak at the Breaking the Silence conference and will be speaking at the KCEE conference about their work in the schools this summer. They hope to expand the program to the feeder middle & grade schools in the coming years. Mr. DeRosa exhibits tremendous dedication to promoting innovative learning and teaching practices through the integration of environmental and local topics and science that connect with a variety of subjects, including STEM initiatives and exceptional community involvement.
EPA Region 9
Dominique Evans-Bye, Clark Magnet High School
La Crescenta, California
Dominique Evans-Bye teaches biology and geographic information science at Clark Magnet High School in La Crescenta, California. Dominique has been a volunteer public safety diver for the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department since 1992. Combining grant funding and Sheriff’s funding, she was able to purchase a VideoRay remotely operated vehicle. The Marine Science Research course she teaches combines marine ecology, DNA barcoding and ROV operations with the fundamentals of GIS. Through a Teacher-Initiated Inquiry Project grant from UCLA, Dominique led her team to develop a new science elective course, The Geology of Disasters. Following the Career Technical Education model from the University of California, the course combines rigorous academic instruction with the career orientated skills of GIS. For this course, Dominique sought training from FEMA and became a Hazus-MH Practitioner to teach risk assessment, loss estimation and loss mitigation strategies with Hazus-MH GIS software. For their capstone project, Dominique’s students work with city officials to keep the Local Hazards Mitigation Plan up to date using Hazus-MH software. In connection to a variety of science studies, art and language art are also an integral part of Dominique’s environmental curriculum as she promotes a coastal art and poetry contest with her students each year. Her students also learn about cartography and digital arts that strengthen their technical, writing and design skills, as evidenced by recognized student success in previous scientific poster events. Dominique created Environmental GIS as a project-based learning course to give students the opportunity to take part in original research projects. To date, EnvGIS students have been awarded over $180,000 in scholarships and grants.
EPA Region 10
Ralph Harrison, Science and Math Institute
Ralph Harrison has been instrumental in creating a unique and innovative approach to high school environmental education, science and physical education at the Science and Math Institute (SAMi). He utilizes the outdoors, experiential, and place-based learning in all aspects of his curriculum. As a direct result of the Outdoor Education program developed and started by Ralph, many students continue participating in the environmental field through environmental, conservation, science activities and projects. He is very enthusiastic about extending environmental education beyond the classroom to actively demonstrate and teach about the natural world with his students. Through his innovative teaching approaches, students learn to collect data for forest certification and participate annually in the “bio-blitz” inventory of the Point Definace Park area, as well as numerous scientific studies with local Universities and Point Defiance Zoo. Ralph was a member of the team of inaugurating educators who opened his district’s first STEM focused high school. Prior to that, he was one of ten teachers to open the groundbreaking and award-winning Tacoma School of the Arts. Through his interactive methods, students experience daily hikes while maintaining field notes and sketches of their observations and project based classes that are tailored to meet diverse learning needs. Ralph’s students learn environmental education through integrated work in science, natural histories, civic responsibility and connection with community that has a lasting impact and skill set that is carried into their future studies and endeavors.
Lindsey Hoffman-Truxel, Barbara Morgan Elementary
As a seasoned teacher with nearly twenty years of teaching experience, Lindsey Truxel is dedicated to place-based environmental education. She utilizes creative approaches to transform students’ lives and inspire learners. Collaborative teaching is an integral component of Lindsey’s approach as she teams up with community members to bolster discovery and understanding with her students. She has connected her students with experts in the fields of engineering, astronomy, biology, chemistry, as well as community leaders, Nez Perce National Forest employees, city workers, school board members and high school teachers to bring classroom activities to life.
She has been a member of the Environmental Advisory Committee (EAC) in her community for four years as well as a member of the newly established school district Green Committee. Lindsey is currently working with four government agencies on a special innovative project that teaches her students about invasive species of weeds and the nitrogen cycle. The Knapweed Project has allowed students to learn about botany, soil characteristics, and land stewardship. In addition, she has integrated the project into the areas of art, music, language, social studies and physical education. The passion and drive she has for teaching is visible in all subjects, though she is especially devoted to math, science, technology and community-based, real-world projects. Through her efforts, students are sending data to NASA, studying fish and plants, and using microscopes and telescopes. She also brought Camp Invention to her school and has been able to share the funding, monitoring, and supervision opportunity with other teachers. Her dream is to see her school, Barbara Morgan Elementary, become a leader in science and math education. Lindsey strives to challenge her students and self to create a positive learning space that encourages lifelong learning and inspires curiosity.
2013 PIAEE Honorable Mention recipients:
1. Edmund Smith, Two Rivers Magnet Middle School, East Hartford, Connecticut
2. Courtney Leard, Fountaindale School for the Arts and Academic Excellence, Hagerstown, Maryland
3. Peter Mecca, George Mason High School, Falls Church, Virginia
4. Traci Knight Ingleright, Gwin Elementary School, Hoover, Alabama
5. Kathleen Ann Diggs King, General Ray Davis Middle School, Stockbridge, Georgia
6. Cheri Goggin, Berkshire Jr./ Sr. High School, Burton, Ohio
7. Keith Hannaman , Blue Springs South High School, Blue Springs, Missouri
8. Lucas Shivers, Bluejacket-Flint Elementary, Shawnee, Kansas
9. Dana Jenks, George Washington Carver, Sacramento, California
EPA Region 1
Lizanne “Liz” Cox, Common Ground High School
New Haven, Connecticut
From the time she arrived at Common Ground High School in 1999, Liz Cox has demonstrated that the local environment can be a powerful context for challenging, authentic and meaningful learning. Founded in 1998, Common Ground High School is a charter school in an urban environment that serves a diverse student body. As a teacher and school leader, Liz has promoted environmental learning to break down barriers between the school and the community. Liz helped develop new courses that focused on using Common Ground's urban farm as a laboratory for exploring food issues and student relationships with urban neighborhoods. Based on a hands-on learning approach, these courses actively engage students on issues most relevant to low-income, minority students, such as environmental justice, food security and educational equity. Liz also formed a team to assess student learning, implement improvement strategies, measure impacts related to environmental learning and leadership, and create a school-wide environmental leadership benchmark assessment. She has demonstrated that environmental issues, and the urban environment in particular, are a powerful tool for interdisciplinary learning and have a role in every subject area. Liz’s work has helped produce dramatic educational results, including students who surpassed the 2011 state average in math, reading and writing for the first time in the school’s history.
Ed Lindsey, Old Town High School
Old Town, Maine
While teaching chemistry and earth science at Old Town High School, Ed Lindsey also participates in Acadia Learning, a partnership that provides professional development and scientific support to teachers who are conducting inquiry-based studies of mercury in ecosystems across New England. One year after he joined Acadia Learning, Ed developed a hands-on environmental chemistry course at Old Town to teach about mercury, core chemistry concepts and the usefulness of dragonfly larvae as sentinels for mercury in fresh water. The students go on field expeditions to search for dragonfly larvae, delineate the watersheds involved in the study and calculate how mercury affects their watershed each year. Students use their own data to develop conclusions and present their results at a student poster symposium attended by scientists and resource managers. Ed’s class engages his students in authentic research and provides many students their only opportunity to work outdoors in a natural laboratory. He also has led a group of high school teachers in an effort to redesign and coordinate earth science curricula across schools in five towns. His commitment to environmental science includes continuous coordination to find funding and collaborate with researchers, local experts and community organizations.
EPA Region 2
Patricia Lockhart, The Hubert Humphrey School PS 57
Staten Island, New York
Patricia Lockhart has developed an eclectic science curriculum that engages students in hands-on outdoor environmental education projects at the Hubert Humphrey School, a Title I school located in Staten Island, New York. The majority of her projects are conducted in school gardens and at nearby Eibs Pond Park, where she has initiated programs to address local environmental and health concerns, including airborne toxins, asthma and childhood obesity. Patricia created a healthy children’s garden at the school for students to grow their own fruit and vegetables and a butterfly and bee garden to attract pollinators and help students learn about plant and insect life. Her students make presentations to the school, community and elected officials, and consistently score between 60 and 70 percent above grade level on the fourth-grade state science tests. She has successfully integrated environmental education into the broader school curriculum, including art, math, social studies and language arts. Patricia also runs Robotics and Watershed programs for upper-grade level students and the Junior Ranger Science Club at the YMCA. As a result of her efforts, the Hubert Humphrey School has received numerous awards and grants and has been recognized on the news for its effective environmental education programs.
Aaron Baker, Randolph High School
Randolph, New Jersey
By following a curriculum that features hands-on projects and field experiences, Aaron Baker provides his students opportunities to understand how their actions affect the environment. Aaron revived the AP Environmental Science at Randolph High School, which had been inactive due to low enrollment. He teaches students about waste management, greenhouse gases and alternative energy sources through innovative activities such as making biogas generators out of bottles, balloons and manure to produce and capture methane. Students build solar ovens to learn about passive solar energy and the environmental and social consequences of fuel wood collection. They also build miniature waste management facilities with leachate collection systems to analyze decomposition rates and pollution levels of leachate. Aaron leads his class in field excursions to a local forest to sample pollution levels in a nearby stream, inspect tree density and distribution, and measure secondary succession rates. They take day-long field trips, including trips to the Science Education at Sea program in Cape May, New Jersey, where students learn about wetland conservation, plankton sampling, and fish and invertebrate sampling and identification. Through these experiences, Aaron’s students leave his class with an increased awareness and knowledge to enable them to make positive contributions to sustainability and the environment.
EPA Region 3
Robert Carroll, Plaza Middle School
Virginia Beach, Virginia
In only 5 years of teaching at Plaza Middle School, Robert Carroll has dramatically transformed environmental education by creating a host of innovative school-based projects that use the environment as a context for learning, including oyster restoration, classroom estuaries, composting, organic gardening and a tree nursery. He maintains 10,000 oysters at a local tributary site and transports them to the school for teachers to conduct oyster monitoring laboratories with their classes. Students test water quality, generate authentic data and actively contribute to restoration of the Chesapeake Bay. He organized a composting project that reduces the school’s waste stream by converting garbage into fertile soil that is used in the school’s organic garden. Produce grown by students is donated to local homeless shelters. Robert’s unique projects have turned the school courtyard into an on-site environmental field trip center for students. The courtyard is used as a tree nursery that is applied to teach photosynthesis, the scientific method and data management. The trees are watered with a 450-gallon rainwater collection system that Robert envisioned and contracted with grant funding. Plaza Middle School serves a racially and economically diverse student body, and Robert’s students have dramatically improved test scores on the science Standards of Learning.
Rebecca Sanders, Crellin Elementary School
After her fifth-grade class found acid mine drainage seeping into Snowy Creek behind Crellin Elementary School, Rebecca Sanders took the opportunity to teach her students innovative problem solving and environmental science. She helped transform the site into an environmental education laboratory, and the Crellin Corps of Discovery was formed. Rebecca developed environmental education lessons that incorporated components of the site, including wetlands, treatment ponds, a vernal pool, native gardens and the restored riparian area. She uses Snowy Creek and the surrounding ecosystems to engage students in scientific processes, such as exploration, observation, classification and prediction. Her students have worked with a local watershed association and state agency to monitor Snowy Creek by surveying benthic macroinvertebrates, a key indicator of stream health. Rebecca’s students gain confidence by presenting their learning and ideas to community groups, and they learn that they have the potential to improve their community and become life-long stewards of the environment. Her cross-curricular lesson plans also encourage other teachers to integrate environmental studies into their curriculum.
EPA Region 4
Frank McKay, Exploris Middle School
Raleigh, North Carolina
Located in downtown Raleigh, Exploris Middle School is an urban charter school with no school grounds or outdoor learning spaces. For the past decade, science teacher Frank McKay has developed innovative ways to connect students to the natural world through a combination of project-based learning, community partnerships and service learning. He inspires students to be informed, active citizens who implement positive change in their community by integrating science, social studies and language arts into quarterly “themes” that are anchored in local and global environmental issues. For example, students study water by visiting the source of their drinking water, canoeing the Neuse River to study the effects of runoff and analyzing the health of local streams. He has established a strong network of dozens of community organizations with local experts to help students learn through field experiences. Students also engage underserved communities directly through projects with the Walnut Creek Wetland Center and Partners for Environmental Justice. Collaborating with community and national partners, Frank created the Neuse Riverkeeper Foundation Environmental Challenge, which provides opportunities for teachers and students to participate in place-based environmental service-learning centered on North Carolina’s state teaching standards. Frank’s students connect with nature and contribute meaningfully to their community while building strong environmental literacy skills by understanding how environmental issues impact public health, the economy and shared resources.
Deborah “Deb” Wasylik, Dr. Phillips High School
For 10 years, Deb Wasylik has taught environmentally oriented classes at Dr. Phillips High School, an urban school of 3,600 students serving primarily minority and low-income students. Deb’s classes incorporate hands-on activities, challenging laboratories and other innovative teaching methods. She draws students into the world of environmental science through her “meet the scientist” program, when she invites science researchers into the classroom to help students better understand what they are learning in school and to excite them about the field of science research. She co-sponsors the school’s Eco-Action Team, which performs campus cleanups and partners with the City of Orlando and the Ocean Conservancy to clean up Lake Fran. She also helped the students work with the Universal Foundation to secure a grant that provided the school with 60 recycling bins and initiate a campus-wide recycling program. Deb also works with several department members to develop curricula with direct connections to environmental education. She encourages her students to find the issues they are passionate about and to continue to pursue them after they graduate so that they continue to make a difference. She has been recognized by several prominent organizations for her efforts, including the Christopher Columbus Life Science Educator Award, recognizing her as one of the top teachers in the United States.
EPA Region 5
Howard Hill, Highland Park High School
Highland Park, Illinois
Howard Hill introduces students to outside learning, investigation and research from the first day of class, inspiring them to learn and think analytically. Howard’s students have designed and built a biodiesel laboratory that converts the cafeteria’s vegetable oil into fuel to power a generator used for concession stands at athletic events. They also have transformed an unused courtyard into a living laboratory. Students learned about building ordinances, wind power dynamics and the physics of electricity as they worked with school administrators, the school board and contractors to install a wind turbine that feeds power into the school’s grid. His students coordinate recycling efforts, wetland restoration projects, community education programs and environmental outreach programs to local elementary schools. Howard promotes independent research, which allows students from different backgrounds the opportunity to choose a topic of study with cultural and personal relevance. While serving on Highland Park’s Environmental Commission, he developed a program to bring student representation onto the commission. The student position rotates through graduating seniors and introduces them to the politics of environmental issues. As a member of the school’s steering committee, he has helped to design the objectives and teaching goals of various departments and align them with specific state teaching standards. Howard’s teaching has instilled his students with enthusiasm, knowledge and passion for the environment, and empowered them to make a difference in the world.
Sandra Vander Velden, Fox River Academy
As the co-founder and lead teacher at Fox River Academy, Sandra Vander Velden promotes use of an integrated curriculum to teach core subject areas by focusing on the environmental, historical, cultural and economic importance of the Fox River. Each week, in partnership with a field biologist, Sandra leads students in local land restoration projects that complement rigorous inquiry learning projects conducted in the classroom. Her students are currently converting Pierce Park, a former trash dump, into an outdoor learning classroom. They are clearing undesirable tree species, constructing benches and bird houses, and developing plans to create a trail with interpretive signs. Sandra uses these projects to guide students in the application of academic skills to make positive changes to their environment. Sandra also serves as the coordinator for several annual school-wide and community events, such as a rain barrel demonstration project, storm drain stenciling and stream monitoring. She is the coordinator of the Jefferson/Fox River Academy Community Garden Project, which enables students to learn about plant growth and sustainability issues related to community gardening. Sandra also provides students with leadership opportunities by encouraging them to give tours of the school and field sites, offering community presentations, and writing a quarterly newsletter.
EPA Region 6
Clifford “Cliff” Strain, Flour Bluff Independent School Distric
Corpus Christi, Texas
As a fifth and sixth grade teacher in the Flour Bluff Independent School District, Cliff Strain has gone beyond the classroom to increase student and teacher interest in the local marine environment. His students work in the laboratory and in the field to explore how oceanographers measure tides, currents, salinity and water quality. At the school district’s 47-acre wetland, students are taught how to collect samples, understand food webs, test water quality and identify human impact. Cliff has worked with district personnel to develop a learning center and trails, creating opportunities to engage the whole community in activities that protect the wetland. Throughout 15 years of teaching graduate courses at Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi (TAMU-CC), he worked with teachers in low-income areas to develop partnerships with local industries that support environmental education. In the summers of 2009 and 2011, he conducted a field-based environmental science camp for local children in Kaktovik, an Inupiat village of 250 people located on the Arctic coast of Alaska. He also served on a 5-year planning committee at TAMU-CC to build a math and science center to enhance teachers’ skills in science and math. For more than 21 years, Cliff has used a hands-on approach to encourage students and the members of the community to respect and understand the local environment.
Bradd Schulke, East Mountain High School
Sandia Park, New Mexico
Twelve years ago, Bradd Schulke began teaching environmental science at East Mountain High School with a desire to encourage students to tackle real-world problems though hands-on approaches. One of his first accomplishments was to secure funding to construct a passive solar building on campus, named the East Mountain Center for Environmental Studies. He actively involved the community, gathered support from environmental organizations, and included his students in the design and construction of the center. He also secured funding for his students to conduct plant and animal surveys and water quality monitoring of an acequia in San Antonito that supplies drinking water to members of the local community. Collaborating with another teacher, Bradd developed the concept of the Junior Research Project at the school, which requires every student to research a topic of global concern, identify a community mentor, complete a hands-on project connected to the topic, and present the results to the school community and the public. This innovative approach teaches many important skills, including inventive thinking, interactive communication, and social and personal skills. Bradd also has spent his summers leading a crew of youth conservation corps workers at Wildlife West Nature Park and has served as the president of the Intermountain Conservation Trust for 5 years. Bradd’s approach to environmental education demonstrates to students that individual action can make a difference, even when issues on a national or global scale are involved.
EPA Region 7
Denise Scribner, Eisenhower High School
For more than 30 years, Denise Scribner has taught environmental concepts to young learners of all abilities. Her lessons focus on developing an awareness and knowledge of environmental issues, practicing leadership skills, and making a commitment to act responsively toward the environment. While they were conducting field investigations of the aquatic pond at nearby Goddard High School’s Outdoor Wildlife Learning site, her ecology students learned that the pond was not providing sufficient oxygen for the aquatic species it supports. Denise used this information as an opportunity to guide her class in real-world problem solving to develop a solution: the school won a grant to harvest wind energy to aerate the pond. She also obtained grant funds to finance student efforts to reseed native grasses and develop interpretive nature trails for the Outdoor Wildlife Learning site. Each year, students participate in a “Celebrate Earth” event, during which they develop and lead 25 hands-on activities and five classroom laboratories for third through fifth grade students. Denise invites consultants and volunteers from the local community, county and state to visit her classroom to teach students about issues such as hazardous waste, energy conservation and land management. Outside of the classroom, Denise is involved in the Kansas for Children Nature project and other local initiatives, and she has served on the Kansas Association of Conservation and Environmental Educators to develop an environmental literacy plan for the State of Kansas.
EPA Region 8
John Broda, Buffalo Ridge Elementary
“Dirty learning” is how John Broda describes his teaching philosophy to his students at Buffalo Ridge Elementary. The school year begins with six trips to a local state forest, where students learn about tree identification, Rocky Mountain pine beetles, water quality testing and insect classification. Students collect data on a section of trees, use global positioning systems and laptops to record data, and upload the information to analyze patterns on the Rocky Mountain pine beetle and their effects. John’s students also take a trip to Yellowstone National Park, where he incorporates elements of reading, writing, science and social studies through hands-on activities, journal writing and problem solving. The trip also includes a stop at the Buffalo Bill Historic Center’s Draper Museum, where students learn about various environments that are unique to the Rocky Mountains. Students also visit the Northwest Community College Field Station, where experts facilitate outdoor workshops for student groups and discuss topics related to wildlife, forestry and horticulture. John helped work with the school Parent Teacher Organization to begin the Save the Planet Club. Save the Planet Club members collect and recycle paper and distribute energy efficient light bulbs at school events to promote energy conservation. John’s recycling efforts developed into a pilot program with the City of Cheyenne to install a recycling dumpster on school grounds.
Sally High, Pagosa Springs Middle School
Pagosa Springs, Colorado
As a social studies teacher at Pagosa Springs Middle School, Sally High instructs students about the relationship between the environment and global issues. She teaches various “challenge classes” at the school, including “Clean Energy and Sustainability,” when students conduct an energy audit of the school and develop a plan to conserve and reduce school energy use. As part of the “Greenhouse Gardening and Sustainability” challenge class, Sally teaches students about sustainable food production and takes them on a field trip to a water treatment plant, where they learn about the importance of water resources. She is part of a team of teachers that takes seventh graders on an outdoor excursion and camping trip to Bandelier National Monument in New Mexico to learn about history, physical geography, and flora and fauna. She sponsors the seventh and eighth grade Leadership Team, which has helped to clean the campus and local neighborhood, plant trees and maintain flower beds, and advocate recycling. Sally also is coaching three Destination ImagiNation teams, a co-curricular academic competition that promotes teamwork, problem solving, creative skills and scientific research as the students strive to build a solar prototype. Through inquiry-based learning and student-directed research projects, students improve their understanding of how their rural community is linked to the global environment. Sally also serves on the board of the Geothermal Greenhouse Partnership, which endeavors to build dome greenhouses and community gardens.
EPA Region 9
Riccardo Magni, Pioneer Valley High School
Santa Maria, California
During the 2008-2009 school year, Riccardo Magni was tasked by the principal at Pioneer Valley High School to reinvigorate an advanced environmental science class that had low enrollment. With the help of grant funding, Riccardo purchased Probeware and Labquest devices and organized students to begin monthly testing of a local pond at Jim May Park. Students test the water for environmental factors such as turbidity, nitrates and dissolved oxygen; analyze the data; and share results with a local elementary school to teach and inspire younger students about the environment. Riccardo leads field trips to the Avila Sea Life Center, where students participate in a workshop, collect ocean water samples and study sea life. He conducts ecological nature walks to provide students with opportunities to observe, classify and predict the species living on campus. He also has invited dozens of industry professionals to talk to students and expose them to real-life applications of environmental science. He recently founded the Summer Science Research Institute, a 6-week summer program during which students have built a wind turbine and a wave energy device to extract energy from the ocean. Riccardo has instilled excitement in science classes at Pioneer Valley High School and has been approached by other science teachers in his school district seeking help to start similar programs.
EPA Region 10
Mike Town, Redmond High School
In the late 1990s, Mike Town became one of the first teachers in the United States to teach Advanced Placement (AP) Environmental Science and has since taught the course to more than 2,000 students. A few years ago, he developed a Career and Technology Education-certified course in Environmental Engineering and Sustainable Design that focuses on teaching green job skills, including green construction, alternative energy, transportation design and urban planning. Mike uses innovative projects as part of his curriculum to increase environmental literacy. For example, in coordination with the Redmond Parks Department, Mike’s students embarked on a project to map and calculate the acreage of several different ecosystems and measure the ecological services of the largest parks in the city. They then calculated the economic value to society from 23 ecological services, including carbon storage, water retention and nitrogen formation. Mike has developed a number of innovative national curriculum projects that are available to teachers for free, including the Cool School Challenge (CSC), where students measure and reduce the carbon footprint of their schools by auditing the energy use of each classroom. The CSC energy auditing curriculum has been used in hundreds of schools across the world, resulting in the abatement of millions of pounds of carbon dioxide. Mike continues to advance the field of environmental education and has conducted professional development workshops for teachers at numerous conferences, including the National Science Teachers Association and the Environmental Educators Association of Washington.
Deirdre Bingaman, Donnelly Elementary School
By focusing her environmental education projects on real-life community issues, Deirdre Bingaman helps her students recognize the value of their local environment. She partners with area professionals, providing her students with the opportunity to learn in a collaborative setting outside of the traditional classroom. Deirdre began the inquiry-based Boulder Creek Project in 2008 after learning that Boulder Creek, which runs alongside Donnelly Elementary School, was listed as water quality impaired on the Idaho Integrated Report. Each year, her fifth grade class compiles water quality data and uses the scientific method to investigate a question they selected. Students present the final results of their project to the Donnelly City Council and community members. Deirdre’s students routinely collect and quantify the amount of paper recycled at the school, and convert that amount into the amount of trees and energy saved. They are currently participating in an effort to invite all of the elementary schools in Idaho to participate in this program, and requesting that they enter their results online to determine the amount of trees and energy saves state-wide. Deirdre also shares her expertise with other educators through presentations at educational conferences and published journal articles.
2012 PIAEE Honorable Mention recipients:
- Jeannie Kornfield, Hanover High School, Hanover, New Hampshire
- James Hefti, Pulaski Middle-Senior High School, Pulaski, New York
- Alan Fiero, Farnsworth Middle School, Guilderland, New York
- Gina Mason, Palmyra Area School District, Palmyra, Pennsylvania
- Diane Parton, Warren County Schools, Warren County, Tennessee
- Doug Anderson, Williamson County Schools, Williamson County, Tennessee
- Lisa del Muro, Wheeling High School, Wheeling, Illinois
- Patrick Arndt, Berlin High School, Berlin, Wisconsin
- Holly Anderson, Coppell High School, Coppell, Texas
- Rachel Bossier, Fairfield Junior High School, Fairfield, Texas
- Kathleen O'Brien, Derby High School, Derby, Kansas
- Mark McKay, Venture Academy-Delta Vista High School, Byron, California
- Susan Milan, South Whidbey Elementary School, Langley, Washington